The PioneersThe MilitaryReferences

The Age of Hospital Reform.

Sir John Hall

Sir John Hall was Head of Medical Services during the Crimean War (1854-1856) and in his letters, which are a record his correspondence during the 1840s and 1850s, he is quoted to saying;

“I like my patients to feel the smart of the knife”.

True to type, Sir John was hostile to anaesthetics. He warned his medical officers against using chloroform, even in cases of severe gunshot wounds:

“However barbarous it may appear, the smart of the knife is a powerful stimulant; and it is better to hear a man bawl lustily, than to see him sink silently into the grave.”

Of particular note are his battles of control with Nightingale, who he referred to as the “petticoat imperium”. Writing to his superiors he defends the army medical services from her criticisms, and pulls no punches in accusing her of arrogance and being an interfering busy body desperate for power.

He states that her intervention deprived the army of perfectly good nurses who were working before her arrival. On the other side Nightingale called his award of the K.C.B.,

“Knight of the Crimean Burial grounds".

He did however have a great deal of respect for Mary Seacole who he viewed as a help and not a hindrance.

The fact of the matter was that Mary Seacole was a volunteer and was only allowed to enter the premises on his invite so she had to be diplomatic as opposed to Nightingale who was not.

Sir John Hall died shortly after the war; he had a distinguished career starting his military life days after Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

He ended up as Surgeon General at a time when there were a lot of changes and the introduction of anaesthesia and asepsis meant that all things surgical had to change, he was however like an old dog unwilling to learn new tricks.



Nicolai Ivanivich Pirogoff  (1810-1881)

His opposite on the Russian side during the Crimean war was Nicolai Ivanivich Pirogoff, quoted by some as one of the greatest figures in Russian Medical history. He was to coin the phrase "War is traumatic epidemic".

His roles were similar in the way with Duchess Helena Pavlovna he introduced nurses to the war zone to look after the wounded.





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